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New Section on Net Collecting for the Bee Manual

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  • Sam Droege
    All: I have revised the section on net collecting bees in the manual. Take a look below and see if there is anything you think needs to be added or altered.
    Message 1 of 1 , Sep 5, 2010


      I have revised the section on net collecting bees in the manual.   Take a look below and see if there is anything you think needs to be added or altered.



      How to Net Collect Bees –

      Always hold your net in a “swing-ready” position.   One hand should be below the head and the other towards the back or middle of the pole holding the tip of the net lightly against the pole so that it is not dragging in the vegetation.  When you start your swing you also drop the tip of the net.
      Bees are best detected by their motion rather than their size and shape.  The mind detects motion much faster than it can process colors and shapes into bee/not bee categories.  Train yourself to key in on movement, over time you will become more adept at separating bee motion from plant motion.

      Bees are lost when you hesitate or check your swing.  If you see something that looks like a bee put it in your net, once in your net you can decide whether to keep it or not.  If you spend any significant time thinking about whether you should or should not swing the opportunity will be over as the bee will have moved on.

      Always keep a mental check for the presence of thorny plants in the area where you might swing. ..for obvious consequences to your net.

      When swinging a net, speed is important as well as follow-through.  Bees are very visual and very fast.  If you are timid in your swing or cut your swing short bees will evade the net.  Center your net on the bee if at all possible even if it means having to plow through some vegetation.  When a bee is flying low to the ground it is better to slap the net over the bee than it is to try and catch it with the corner of your net.

      All else being equal, it is better to swing at a bee that is just coming into or away from a flower than actually on a flower.  Particularly if you are trying not to damage the plant a less than vigorous sing of the net will simply push a bee on a flower under the net and it will fly away afterwards.   After some practice you can bring your net up to a bee on a flower, wait for the bee to just leave the flower, push the flower out of the way with your net and still easily capture the bee.

      When looking at a clump of flowers that could contain bees stand 4-8 feet away.  Most people stand too close to the flowers, scaring away some of the bees you are interested in, limiting both the number of flowers (and therefore bees) in your field of view, and limiting your depth of field.  In this way you can view a large area of flowers, spot a bee, and either lean forward or take one step to put that bee into your net.  If you have to take 2 steps or more you are too far away.

      On any flower patch concentrate on the difficult to obtain bees first.  In particular, look for bees that are moving very quickly, from flower to flower, and try to predict where they will move next, usually there is some pattern and often they will come back to the area after making their circuit.   Some of these individuals never really come to rest and you have to swing ahead of where you think you are going to catch them.   It also pays to look below flower clumps for low-flying bees.  Some of these are nest parasites and others simply prefer to move between clumps of flower just above the ground or grass.  

      Open soil of any kind and, in particular, south facing slopes, overturned root masses, clay banks, and piles of construction dirt or sand should be scanned both for bee nests and for low cruising nest parasites.  Nest parasites (in particular Nomada) usually fly just above the soil in erratic flight paths.  The best way to capture them is to slap the entire head of the net over the bee and quickly lift the net bag up while leaving the rim on the ground so that the bee flies upward rather than tries to sneak under the rim.  Often it can take several seconds for the bee to travel upwards, so patience should be applied.

      Time spent removing bees from the net is time not capturing bees, therefore  think about how you are removing bees from your net and see if you can speed the process up.   In the beginning there is usually a great fear of being stung by your subjects.  In reality, in North America, only Polistes, Vespinii, Bombus, Apis, and perhaps a few of the other wasps have significant stings.  These are large insects and can be readily seen.  However, even these species do not sting in a net unless they are physically grabbed or trapped against the net.  Thus, with time you should concentrate on diminishing your fears and spend more time sticking your hand and kill jar directly into the net.  If you are putting your net on the ground to remove bees you are taking too much time.  Kill jars should be fully charged to quickly kill your specimens and it helps to have multiple jars available (see section on kill jars).  The most efficient means of collecting large numbers of bees is to use vials or containers of soapy water.   In that way you can fill your net with bees and only have to remove them periodically rather than after catching individuals.  However, cleaning and processing these bees is different from the other groups and requires some care to do properly (see section on washing and drying bees).

      There are two ways to catch multiple individuals in a net.  One way is to turn your net sideways after capturing a bee and hoping that the bee will not find a way out and the other is to physically hold the bag closed above the tip of the bag containing the bees (note, in between swinging at bees, you will be holding the closed bag against the net pole as you carry it from place to place).  In both cases you will have to periodically snap the contents of the bag to the bottom.  Do this vigorously or some wasps (in particular) may not go to the bottom and you could end up grabbing them through the net with obvious consequences to your hand.

      Sam Droege  sdroege@...                      
      w 301-497-5840 h 301-390-7759 fax 301-497-5624
      USGS Patuxent Wildlife Research Center
      BARC-EAST, BLDG 308, RM 124 10300 Balt. Ave., Beltsville, MD  20705

      Nuclear Physicists use Astounding
      Comparisons to Make Clear the Nature
      of Infinite Numbers

      An adult male Norwegian
      weighs as much as
      two and a half billion
      boxelder bugs.
      Is it any surprise that
      there are more boxelder bugs
      than Norwegians?
      Imagine a planet in which
      Norwegians crawled up
      and down your kitchen walls
      by the thousands, hid
      under the warm coffee pot,
      fell like discolored noodles out
      of the noodle bags where they slept;
      after the blizzards started,
      you would find Norwegians
      dried inside light fixtures, Norwegians
      clogging up the vacuum cleaner,
      Norwegians floating in
      cups of lukewarm coffee.
         -Bill Holm

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